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Powell v. American Bankers Insurance Co. of Florida

United States District Court, W.D. Texas, Austin Division

March 1, 2018

ORVID POWELL, II, Plaintiff,
v.
AMERICAN BANKERS INSURANCE COMPANY OF FLORIDA d/b/a ASSURANT SOLUTIONS, Defendant.

          ORDER

          SAM SPARKS SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         BE IT REMEMBERED on this day the Court reviewed the file in the above-styled cause, and specifically, Defendant American Bankers Insurance Company of Florida (ABIC)'s Motion for Summary Judgment [#44], Plaintiff Orvid Powell's Response [#49] in opposition, and ABIC's Reply [#55] in support, as well as Powell's Motion for Extension of Time to Complete Discovery [#48] and ABIC's Response [#53] in opposition.[1] Having reviewed the documents, the relevant law, and the case file as a whole, the Court now enters the following opinion and orders.

         Background

         This is an employment discrimination case. ABIC hired Powell as a human resources associate in May 2009. Mot. Summ. J. [#44-3] Ex. C (Stingone Decl.) at 3. ABIC's human resources team-consisting of Powell and five other associates-was responsible for data entry related to ABIC's employee-management systems. Id. Since 2007, the human resources team has been supervised and managed by Lisa Stingone. Id. at 2.

         In December 2013, Powell asked for a received permission to work from Austin, Texas on a temporary basis. Id. at 4. Subsequently, Powell's job performance in 2014 and 2015 lagged behind that of his coworkers. Id. at 4-5. Powell received the lowest performance evaluation scores of any member of the HREA team in both 2014 and 2015. Id. Powell also passed audits of his work at a lower rate than his coworkers. Id.

         ABIC contends that sometime in the spring of 2015 it began to automate certain data entry functions performed by the human resources team. Id. at 5. ABIC further contends that as a result of this ongoing automation, it no longer needed to employ six human resources associates. Id. at 5-6. Stingone, the manager of the human resources team, determined Powell should be let go because he qualified as the lowest performing member of the human resources team. Id.

         In October 2015, Powell was informed he was being laid off. Id. at 6. Subsequently, on October 25, 2015, Powell filed a charge with the EEOC alleging ABIC discriminated against him on the basis of race, sex, and disability. Compl. [#1-1] Ex. 1 at 2-12. After the EEOC dismissed Powell's case, he filed this lawsuit in federal court on September 30, 2016 alleging violations of Title VII and the ADA. Compl. [#1]. ABIC now files the pending motion for summary judgment which is ripe for review.

         Analysis

         I. Legal Standard

         Summary judgment shall be rendered when the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-25 (1986); Washburn v. Harvey, 504 F.3d 505, 508 (5th Cir. 2007). A dispute regarding a material fact is "genuine" if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict in favor of the nonmoving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). When ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the court is required to view all inferences drawn from the factual record in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio, 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986); Washburn, 504 F.3d at 508. Further, a court "may not make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence" in ruling on a motion for summary judgment. Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150 (2000); Anderson, 477 U.S. at 254-55.

         Once the moving party has made an initial showing that there is no evidence to support the nonmoving party's case, the party opposing the motion must come forward with competent summary judgment evidence of the existence of a genuine fact issue. Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586. Mere conclusory allegations are not competent summary judgment evidence, and thus are insufficient to defeat a motion for summary judgment. Turner v. Baylor Richardson Med. Ctr., 476 F.3d 337, 343 (5th Cir. 2007). Unsubstantiated assertions, improbable inferences, and unsupported speculation are not competent summary judgment evidence. Id. The party opposing summary judgment is required to identify specific evidence in the record and to articulate the precise manner in which that evidence supports his claim. Adams v. Travelers Indem. Co. of Conn., 465 F.3d 156, 164 (5th Cir. 2006). Rule 56 does not impose a duty on the court to "sift through the record in search of evidence" to support the nonmovant's opposition to the motion for summary judgment. Id.

         "Only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing laws will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. Disputed fact issues that are "irrelevant and unnecessary" will not be considered by a court in ruling on a summary judgment motion. Id. If the nonmoving party fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to its case and on which it will bear the burden of proof at trial, summary judgment must be granted. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-23.

         II. Application

         Powell claims ABIC discriminated against him on the basis of race, sex, age, and disability in violation of Title VII and the ADA. He also claims ABIC illegally retaliated against him in violation of Title VII. The Court first addresses Powell's Title VII ...


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